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The Bird's Nest

3.71 of 5 stars 3.71  ·  rating details  ·  589 ratings  ·  71 reviews
Elizabeth is a demure twenty-three-year-old wiling her life away at a dull museum job, living with her neurotic aunt, and subsisting off her dead mother’s inheritance. When Elizabeth begins to suffer terrible migraines and backaches, her aunt takes her to the doctor, then to a psychiatrist. But slowly, and with Jackson’s characteristic chill, we learn that Elizabeth is not ...more
Mass Market Paperback, 250 pages
Published 1969 by Ace Books (first published 1954)
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Susan
Having loved, “The Haunting of Hill House,” and “We Have Always Lived in the Castle,” I was looking forward to reading more by Shirley Jackson. Published in 1954, this is Jackson’s third novel and already has several themes which recur in later books. The main character, Elizabeth Richmond, is a withdrawn and isolated young woman who acts much younger than her actual age. When we meet her, she lives with her Aunt Morgen and working in the clerical department of a museum. She hardly seems to be n ...more
Shaun
4.5 stars

I think that this was one of Jackson's most commercially successful novels, and while in many ways it reads like vintage Jackson, it has a slightly different feel than We Have Always Lived in the Castle and The Haunting of Hill House, two of my favorites.

In The Bird's Nest, Shirley Jackson once again taps into the complicated psyche of her characters and ultimately her readers with the story of Elizabeth Richmond, a young women suffering from multiple personalities.

This once popular
...more
Emily
I just finished this book after starting it two days ago. I must say, after reading it, my brain is exhausted. However, the exhaustion is not to be confused with dislike for The Bird's Nest. I enjoyed it very much. It's just a lot to take in--hard to follow if you will. It all comes together as the book progresses, but for a majority of the reading, the reader is left confused and inquiring about what is being said or what has happened. Though that is the point, I'd imagine.

The book is about a w
...more
Christopher
Poor Elizabeth Richmond. Poor Beth Richmond. Poor Betsy Richmond. Poor Bess Richmond.

Who are all there poor people, you may ask? Actually, it's just one person. We can collectively refer to this person by her "pre-fracture" name, Elizabeth. She's a shy girl of twenty-three who, like all of Shirley Jackson's heroines, acts much younger than her age. At some point in her past, she suffered a terrible trauma and, employing a very unhealthy coping mechanism, fractured her own personality into four
...more
noelle
i was kind of worried after i read hangsaman that there was a reason early shirley jackson novels were out of print but no, this is great. i love the way shirley jackson writes mentally ill women, although i was a bit worried this one would be problematic considering the disagreements over MPD/DID. idk, i guess it's a bit dated but i liked it a lot and now more than ever i am excited to read judy oppenheimer's bio of ms jackson.

also, i scored this for $2.75 from better world books' last sale. u
...more
Kressel Housman
When I picked this up, the only work I'd ever read by Shirley Jackson was "The Lottery," which was required reading in my 9th grade English class. I imagined her full-length novel would be similar, a grabby read with a disturbing surprise ending, and I was right.

Okay, I'll qualify that. The first few paragraphs were so dull and wordy, I almost gave the book up right then and there. They describe a museum, which is the workplace of the protagonist, though you're not told that right away. This des
...more
Ab
Great book ... Shirley Jackson rocks my world, for real.

If you know me, you know I'm a sucker for an awesome description, so in keeping with that, here are some I've found in this book so far:

p.24 "The whole room partook somehow of the smooth hills & sunsets; the chair in which Elizabeth sat was soft & deep & upholstered in a kind of cloudy orange, her feet lay on a carpet in which a scarlet key design ran in & out & around a geometric floral affair in green & brown, &a
...more
Stephen Curran
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Bert
I thought this started so well, Elizabeth works in a leaning museum with a hole through it, she starts receiving these sinister notes 'i hate you dirty lizzie...' and her aunt keep accusing of her sneaking out in the middle of the night. I'll take a bushel of that. It builds up this surreal and disturbing tension until the doctor steps in...and god is he ever a pretentious douche. It all gets a bit flabby in the midriff, and the doctor's narratives annoyed me. I loved The Haunting of Hill House, ...more
Oswan

I'm beginning to think that maybe, good novels about multiple personality disorder are just doomed to have unsatisfying endings. This is because each separate identity within the person eventually becomes a character in themselves- someone with separate needs, mannerisms, and even memories, all sharing a body. Eventually, each shattered fragment of identity becomes a 'character' that you can sympathize with.

But then what happens? The 'good' ending of a novel about someone with multiple personali
...more
Justin
Jackson's third novel deals with 23 year old Elizabeth Richmond, quiet and friendless, and seemingly younger than her age as many of Jackson's protagonists, and her Dissociative Identity Disorder (formerly Multiple Personality Disorder). Jackson begins with her great prose in describing the museum where Elizabeth works a dull job to mirror her internal state. The mystery and suspense builds when Elizabeth's monotonous life hints something wrong when she suffers from headaches and lapses in consc ...more
V. Briceland
As a cartographer of dark landscapes, Shirley Jackson is well known. Her novels The Haunting of Hill House and We Have Always Lived in the Castle are masterpieces not only of spooky-house writing, but of the psychological specters that torment the living. Her ubiquitous short story "The Lottery" upset its original readers with reason, as it good-naturedly pulled back the skin of small-town life and revealed the skeleton of savagery beneath.

Where modern readers sell Jackson short, however, is in
...more
Jimmy
So strange and wonderful. The way Shirley Jackson can cue a change in personality just by the feel of a line is a truly marvelous thing to behold. Every page is a terror and a joy.
Venessa
Jackson's third novel and another triumph. Elizabeth, or Beth, or Betsy, or .... Bess is a troubled girl living with her Aunt, and working in a museum. When she begins suffering black outs, her Aunt becomes concerned, but only brings her to a doctor once she embarrasses them in the home of her old friends. At a time when multiple personality disorder was just emerging in the world of psychiatry, Elizabeth is a novelty, and her loathsome psychiatrist doesn't really know how to treat her case, in ...more
Diletta
econdo me pecca un po' stavolta. Un pochino troppo pedante e assillante sul fronte di volerci spiegare e spiegare. Avevo apprezzato tantissimo Hill House proprio perché così inquietante in una maniera subdola. L'aspetto psicologico della vicenda stavolta è troppo sviscerato. Ho pensato che forse la cara Shirley si è voluta fare un po' beffe della psichiatria, però in realtà credo che l'abbia fatto con il suo solito intento crudele. Esagerando però.
Comunque sia niente da dire, esageratamente ben
...more
Kylie
Another excellent Shirley Jackson read, this time exploring the world of multiple personality disorder.

Elizabeth is a very naive, young adult who lives with her aunt. Her mother has passed away some years before the novel begins, and her father some years before that. At first, you don't realise what is happening with Elizabeth, as she has migraines and seems to lose parts of the day. You see the reactions from the Aunt, who is at a loss to explain what is going on, and eventually Elizabeth goe
...more
meeners
She was for the first time in the indifferent hands of strangers, entrusting her person to the tenderness of the bus driver, her name to the woman napping in the seat far ahead; she was going to spend the rest of her life in a room belonging to someone else and she would eat at a stranger's table and walk streets she did not recognize under a sun she had never seen, waking, before. Soon no one would even know her face . . . from this moment on no eyes which looked upon her would ever have seen h ...more
Dan Hiland
Though not of the same caliber as "The Haunting of Hill House", "The Bird's Nest" is a book well worth reading. Containing most of Jackson's hallmark touches- isolation, brooding and sinister surroundings, dark humor, realistic and ambivalent dialogue- it describes the disintegration of a young woman's personality. Step by step we watch as Elizabeth recedes from the normal to a hidden world where- after a period of disassociation- first one, then two, then more separate and distinct personalitie ...more
Shaun
Let me start off by saying this will probably go down as my second fave Shirley Jackson novel, right after THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE. In many ways, this novel can be viewed as a dry-run for HILL HOUSE. Both open with descriptions of places that, in some ways, mirror the mental state of the main character--although the connection is a bit more opaque in HOUSE.

Mental states are very important in both books. I maintain that HILL HOUSE is an allegory for a nervous breakdown, and THE BIRD'S NEST ta
...more
Bonnie
Although quite dated I found this book fairly facinating, I wasn't at all sure who the crazy one was for awhile. It was getting really bizarre and confusing but no big twist at the end. I wish I had discovered her years ago when her work was new. So sad she died so young and wasn't appreciated when she was here. I will read more of her.
Her short stories are wonderful and I don't always like short stories, espcially if they are depressing. Her's are great.
Jayaprakash Satyamurthy
A detailed, unsettling portrait of a disturbed woman with dissociative personality disorder, the story is told with a depth of imagination and mastery of diverse voices that rivals Joyce Carol Oates. I found the resolution a little unsatisfying, mainly because the troubled young woman seems to have little chance of shaping her own future without the heavy-handed interference of her self-appointed well-wishers.
Viola
« Where, she wondered, is Elizabeth? Where in the tightness of the skin over her arms and legs, in the narrow bones of her back and the planned structure of her ribs, in the tiny toes and fingers and the vital plan for her neck and head... where, in all this, was there room for anyone else? Could Lizzie be seen moving furtively behind the clarity of the eyes, edging in caution to peer out at herself; was she gone far within, waiting behind the heart or the throat, to seize with both hands and ta ...more
Kristin-Leigh
I'm a big Jackson fan but had previously only read her easier-to-find later works, so it's exciting to have gotten my hands finally on a couple of the recent Penguin reprints of her early novels! Anyone who has read The Haunting of Hill House can speak to Jackson's love for picking up genre tropes and doing something subtle and twisted with them, and The Bird's Nest deals with a woman who has multiple personality disorder and her pompous, self-absorbed therapist. It has a lot of Shirley Jackson' ...more
Steve
Wouldn't it be nice if, instead of recycling old movies ad nauseam, some intelligent screenwriter would bring more of Shirley Jackson's work to life on the big screen. No doubt the lack of body count would make marketing books such as The Bird's Nest and We Have Always Lived in the Castle difficult,
but at least such a movie would have some originality and freshness.

I have yet to come across an author that has mastered the element of suspense as effectively as Jackson, in the process creating cha
...more
Andrea McFirst
Shirley Jackson ha una prosa davvero molto affinata e spesso ho il presentimento che il suo modo di scrivere compensi la non molta immaginazione. Lizzie è un romanzo tremendamente piacevole da leggere. Divertente in alcuni punti ed inquietante in altri ma ammetto di essermi chiesto spesso dove andasse a parare in alcuni passaggi. Chi si aspetta risvolti particolarmente pulp o comunque bizzarri ne resterà deluso. Io personalmente l'ho apprezzato davvero molto. E' un romanzo in cui la follia è tra ...more
Tanner Venrick
In Shirley Jackson's third novel (a psychological thriller about multiple personality disorder) we meet Elizabeth Richmond. Four times.

1) Lizzie: The quiet museum worker who is "put off balance by construction at the museum"

2) Beth: The timid and shy personality who is (along with Lizzie) in danger of being lost.

3) Betsy: The adventurous, rambunctious and childish personality who believes her mother is still alive, and who goes on a misguided quest through the city to find her.

4) Bess: The craz
...more
Stefanie
This might be one of the most fascinating books I've ever read.
It's still too soon to write any review that isn't wild rambling, but ... wow.
Amy
It blows my mind that this was published in 1954! Not my fave Shirley Jackson, but Shirley Jackson on a bad day is still better than average.
Angela Poire
Brilliantly moving. The story is harder to follow than the average novel, but it is astonishingly sympathetic given that it was written in 1954. The story flows through the discovery of four personalities of the heroine. Her families response to her apparent madness and the struggles of her reluctant mental health professional who is ill equipped to handle her decent into the darkest parts of her psyche.

While unrealistic (MPD rarely resolves let alone as neatly as presented in this book) it is o
...more
Hannah
Shirley Jackson was wasting her energies and talent on this one. It's a fascinating story but fundamentally fake, like all stories based on psychology. The ending is the most interesting part---you get the feeling that the author isn't sure what to think. She knows the psychologist is the villain and Elizabeth needs peace, but she also believes all this harmful junk and can't quite bring herself to admit the psychology was a lie from the beginning. The result is an ending that is both too good a ...more
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13388
Shirley Jackson was an influential American author. A popular writer in her time, her work has received increasing attention from literary critics in recent years. She has influenced such writers as Stephen King, Nigel Kneale, and Richard Matheson.

She is best known for her dystopian short story, "The Lottery" (1948), which suggests there is a deeply unsettling underside to bucolic, smalltown Ameri
...more
More about Shirley Jackson...
The Lottery and Other Stories The Haunting of Hill House The Lottery We Have Always Lived in the Castle Life Among the Savages

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“Elizabeth, Beth, Betsy, and Bess, they all went together to find a bird's nest...” 8 likes
“It is not proven that Elizabeth's person equilibrium was set off balance by the slant of the office floor, nor could it be proven that it was Elizabeth who pushed the building off its foundations, but it is undeniable that they began to slip at about the same time.” 4 likes
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